During the Long Dark Winter…
If you feel like eating tons of comfort food and hibernating this time of year, I don’t blame you. But it’s so important to stay active and healthy this time of year and I’ve got some easy, fun tips to do it!
It’s 5:30 p.m. It’s pitch black outside and freezing. All you feel like doing is plopping down on the couch and vegging out for a few hours. If that’s what you’re feeling, should you give in? After all, aren’t you supposed to listen to your body? And if your body is telling you that you should grab the cashmere comforter, a few of your favorite snacks, a glass of wine and the remote … well … what's wrong with that?
There’s certainly nothing wrong with chillaxing—from time to time. But if that’s how you’re gonna roll from late fall until early- or mid-spring when the weather finally warms up and the days are longer, that’s not going to be good for your mental or physical health.
So next time you’re feeling the winter blues, follow these tips:
Stay Positive & Healthy This Winter Tip #1: Meditate In Bed
This may not come as a shock but it’s important to state: In general, people who meditate on a regular basis are happier, calmer, and better able to attract what they want in life. There’s lots of research to support this—at least the part about people who meditate being more positive and calmer.
The problem with meditation is that for people who have never tried it, it seems intimidating. But learning anything new is challenging. Beyond that, though, another problem with meditation is that many people assume that you have to sit completely still in the lotus position like a Buddhist monk, with your legs twisted into a pretzel. But that’s not the case at all…
I recommend starting each day meditating before you get out of bed, lying flat on your back. So how do you meditate? It’s simple. Listen to a meditation app. Try a guided meditation, which will tell you exactly when to breathe in and breathe out. Or, if you’d rather just listen to soothing meditative music, with Tibetan singing bowls or other ethereal sonic blissed out sounds, there’s no shortage of YouTube videos or smartphone apps for that.
Start each morning with a 10-minute meditation before you get out of bed. It will really set the stage for an awesome rest of your day.
Tip #2: 5 Minute Yoga Routine
After you’re done with your meditation routine (and your potty routine), despite how tired you are and despite how cold it may be, force yourself to do a 5-minute yoga routine.
If you live in an apartment without central heating, before you start your meditation practice in bed, turn on your space heater in the living room where you do yoga. Get the room nice and toasty. If you’re not sure which 5-minute yoga routine to do or how to do yoga at all, there’s a ton of intro yoga videos, many of them free.
I recommend doing a flow that keeps your body moving, from cat/cow to downward/upward dog or sun salutations. After just 5 minutes of a continuous flow yoga practice, you’ll feel like a new person, totally energized, in good spirits and ready to take on the day’s challenges. Try my easy yoga pose routine to stress less, feel better.
Tip #3: Seasonal Snacking
Let’s fast forward to the evening hours when there’s no kids around, all your work and errands are done and it’s tempting to get your Netflix on and snack away. This is the most challenging part of the day. Because even if you were successful at incorporating meditation and a mini yoga session or two (or other activity), succumbing to late-night snacking can sabotage all your healthy habits from earlier in the day.
And just like meditation is associated with a more positive attitude, snacking is more associated with depression.
So what can you do when it’s 9:00 at night and it’s time to watch a few episodes of your favorite show? Personally, I try to stop eating and drinking anything with calories by 8:00—unless I’m going out to dinner. Studies on the health impacts of late-night eating are conflicting.
If you have type I diabetes, it may be essential to have a late-night snack to prevent dangerous blood-sugar drops. If you want to manage blood sugar levels and don’t have type I diabetes, however, eating late at night has been shown to contribute to metabolic diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes.
But other studies suggest that having a small meal before bed does not appear to be harmful—especially if you exercise on a regular basis.
I realize that not everybody can resist the temptation to eat something. So if you are going to eat while watching TV on the couch late at night, eat a healthy, delicious mini-meal.
My favorite healthy mini-meals are seasonal roasted veggies with some healthy fats and spices.
- Sweet potato with a tbsp of grass-fed butter and a dash of cinnamon
- Brussel sprouts with avocado oil and sea salt and pepper
- Carrots with hummus and 'Everything But the Bagel' spice (Trader Joe’s) or Zhatar
- High-fiber toast (100% rye) with canned pumpkin and a dash of local raw honey
- Almond flour crackers with cucumbers and lemon and pepper seasoning
I’m not going to demonize late-night snacking. The temptation this time of year is much too great. But do try your best to avoid all snacks with white flour and wheat flour (even 100% wheat). These common flours get metabolized too quickly. That means they turn into sugar and get stored by the liver as extra body fat.
But the healthy mini-meal snacks above metabolize slowly and may even help to keep blood sugar levels within a normal, healthy range.
Tip #4: Read
When’s the last time you read a good book? Many people go all day and all night staring at screens, hardly, if ever looking at printed pages, with the exception maybe of a restaurant menu.
Reading actual books keeps your mind sharp. And when you get in bed, opening a book gets your mind and body ready for restful sleep. Sorry, reading on a tablet isn’t the same. In fact, studies show that the blue light emanating from tablets at night lowers sleep quality.
“The use of commercially-available tablets may have consequences in terms of alertness, circadian physiology, and sleep,” the researchers concluded. Reading books has several health benefits, including keeping your mind sharp, reducing depressive symptoms, lowering blood pressure and heart rate.
So crack open a book and get reading. If you fall asleep after reading just one page, so be it. Let reading be your best sleeping pill.
Tip #5: Eat Before You Party
When I’m invited to a party, I never know what kind of food will be served. Will it be pigs in a blanket, deli finger sandwiches and chips and dip? Most of the time, you get what you pay for, and if the food is free, it’s going to be low quality. So what I do is I have a little Organic Green Drink and then a little later, about an hour or two before the holiday party starts, I’ll eat a full healthy meal. That way, I won’t fill my belly with empty carbs and veggies that have likely been sprayed with pesticides.
I’ll still indulge a little bit because I’m only human and when in Rome, ya know…
Hopefully, following these tips will keep you more positive and healthier this winter.
Cheers, Chef V